Exercise addiction is state of the body in which the person carries out the compulsive engagement in any form of the physical exercise, even if there are negative consequences. To maintain the health, regular exercise is a very good activity, but if it’s done in excessive amount, then it leads to physical injury, internal muscular problems and it also affects person’s personal and the professional life. Normal regular exercise helps to have more energy, better sleep, prevents certain diseases. The exercise addiction is classified under behavioural addiction, where person behaves obsessive, compulsive and causes dysfunction in life. It goes much beyond the enjoyment of the normal exercise and results are worse. The exercise leads to release of the few chemicals in the nervous system. The sense of the pleasure is created in person’s mind because of these chemicals. Exercise addiction can be the dependence on this pleasure response. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM – 5) has not included the exercise addiction as the disorder yet, but it will include in next revision. The research on the exercise addiction is ongoing but their inclusion is undetermined.
There are two types of exercise addiction: Primary and Secondary. The foremost cause of excercise addiction is due to the release of large amounts of endorphins as a consequence of performing the excercise. This makes the individual feel good. It leads to making the body produce its own high, which is what primary exercise addicts become addicted to. It is common in males. The secondary addiction occurs in conjunction with other disorders. The most common disorder is anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia is eating disorder which involves self-starvation eventually leading to excessive weight loss. The causes are –
The primary motivation for the excessive exercise is to lose weight, called as anorexia athletica.
Following are the symptoms for exercise addiction:
When it comes to treating this exercise addiction, abstinence from exercise may not be the required goal. A typical goal will be to return to moderate exercise, in many cases, the new form of the exercise is recommended, for example, the runner becomes the swimmer. Many people do not accept that they are addicted to exercise, thus not being motivated to overcome addiction. Once the person gets aware and get motivated to overcome the addiction, attention can be turned to identifying and correcting automatic thoughts such as those related to the need to control the body and the idea that exercise is always good even if it is done in obsessive manner. Some behavioural strategies such as contingency management, which reward abstinence from a type or maintaining lower level of a once addictive behaviour can be recommended. The disorders related with the excessive exercise such as bulimia or anorexic behaviour must also be treated along with this. The psychotherapist also can be assigned for the treatment.
The prevention of the excessive addiction can be done through various activities. As the technology progresses through time, there are various devices to monitor the exercise activity. By checking regularly, the activity through these devices, one can know If he is working out too much. The person can also refer to the fitness trainer for the daily activities, who will guide him. The diet can also be given by the trainer the person which will help to prevent from being anorexic. Yoga can be done by the person to keep calm mind and to relieve the body before and after exercise.
Just like alcohol addicts, the exercise addicts also get the withdrawal symptoms. The person feel anxious, irritated, restless if he does not perform the physical exercise on a day to day basis. This also reflects on the person’s sleep as he/she faces the sleep problems. They have lack of control over themselves as they find themselves unable to stop working out even in worse physical conditions. They don’t worry much about missed responsibilities, interpersonal problems, physical injuries, or mental health issues. There is drastic reduction in the other activities performed by the person.